Agile Education

10 Tips to Help You Host Enjoyable, Effective Virtual Meetings

Organizational Effectiveness Coach Ram Srinivasan Shares Simple Strategies to Keep Your Remote Teams Engaged, Psychologically Safe, and Productive

Many of my students and clients struggle with remote facilitation, and while it’s true that co-location can be great for team building, the world of work is changing rapidly in favor of remote collaboration, developing new techniques to improve your team’s experience and productivity ensures your remote collaboration is both successful and enjoyable for everyone involved

Facilitators: Set your expectations up front and get buy-in.

  1. Pivot, pro-style.

Deconstruct why your favorite in-person techniques work and reconstruct them for virtual meetings. Many of the remote facilitation tools you use, such as Zoom, have capabilities including surveys and virtual break-out sessions to replicate real-life meeting experiences.

  1. Engage other facilitators

Try splitting virtual hosting into two roles: content/facilitation and virtual technical support. So, maybe have two people co-hosting. One facilitating the meeting’s progress and another one monitoring engagement, chat, and other logistics.

  1. Downsize your meetings.

Remote meetings should be generally smaller than in-person meetings. It is hard to have more than 12 people in a virtual meeting and still expect them to be engaged. If you are new to remote meetings, try to break them up into teams of roughly six, then build up.

  1. Avoid slide shows.

Slide shows are just one way to share information. How could you share this information in a more fun, engaging way? Use tools that support virtual break-out rooms instead of simply lecturing your meeting guests.

  1. Pay attention to discomfort.

Participants can only sit in one place or discuss a single topic for so long. For long meetings, break for 10-15 minutes every 45. In shorter meetings, get buy-in when conversations run long — ask for a Roman vote from the team to gauge whether they’d like to continue a given conversation or move on.

  1. Practice and prepare

You cannot wing a virtual meeting. Have a Plan B at the ready. What if someone’s internet connection fails? What if your video conferencing platform crashes? Be prepared.

  1. Set expectations

Communicate beforehand that if an attendee breaks the agreement to be in a quiet place for every meeting, you’ll silence their microphone as a courtesy to the other attendees. To embrace discourteous meeting behavior begins the self-fulfilling prophecy of bad virtual meetings and should be avoided.

  1. Create an inclusive culture.

Like my friend Mike Dwyer says – use the NOSTUESO rule – no one speaks twice until everyone speaks once. When one person speaks, if nobody jumps in to follow, have the speaker nominate the next person. Each participant has the right to pass. This creates space for less assertive people to speak up. It also ensures full participation.

  1. Get everyone involved early on

If participants speak up in the first five minutes, they are much more likely to speak again. Additionally, when women speak first, the probability that other women speak is higher. If appropriate, use tools like https://www.mentimeter.com/ or https://kahoot.com/ to increase engagement during the meeting by having participants answer questions.

  1. Encourage a psychologically safe working agreement.

Create a space for psychological safety and engagement from everyone into the working agreement. Think about what might damage psychological safety (sometimes unconsciously). To counteract this happening, have participants paraphrase and repeat back what a speaker said. This makes people pay more attention and also ensures that the speaker’s message landed as intended.

I hear what you are thinking, “But … But … But … in our office, we never … ” If you expect to adapt to changing times, your whole team must make the effort. My question to you is, “What is possible for you to change (and keep improving) to get better results?

An early version of this article by Ram Srinivasan, Organizational Effectiveness Coach, appeared on his website: Innovagility.com.

Special thanks to Gene Gendel, Scrum Alliance Certified Agile Coach, for his contributions to this article

Author Bio: Ram Srinivasan is a Scrum Alliance Certified Agile Coach and Trainer and holds the certifications Certified Team Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer as well as the Professional Scrum Trainer from scrum.org. His mission is to help his clients build great organizations and he does this by focusing on people, process and product development. Ram holds a master’s degree in engineering from The University of Arizona and is currently based out of Boston